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Serbia Design Report 2018-2020

Serbia’s multi-stakeholder consultation process has improved considerably through better public outreach, including on the local level. However, the action plan largely continues initiatives from the previous plan mainly with measures of limited ambition. Notable commitments include transparency of media funding, amendments to the access to information law, and proactive publication of information. Effective implementation will benefit from continued collaboration while high-level political support is needed for more ambitious commitments.

Table 1. At a glance

Participating since: 2013

Action plan under review: Third

Report type: Design

Number of commitments:  15

 

Action plan development

Is there a Multi-stakeholder forum:  Yes

Level of public influence:  Collaborate

Acted contrary to OGP process: No

 

Action plan design

Commitments relevant to OGP values:    14 (93%)

Transformative commitments:                  1 (7%)

Potentially starred commitments: 1 (7%)

Action plan implementation

Starred commitments: N/A

Completed commitments: N/A

Commitments with Major DIOG*: N/A

Commitments with Outstanding DIOG*: N/A

 

*DIOG: Did it Open Government?

The Open Government Partnership (OGP) is a global partnership that brings together government reformers and civil society leaders to create action plans that make governments more inclusive, responsive, and accountable. The Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) monitors all action plans to ensure governments follow through on commitments. Serbia joined OGP in 2013. Since then, Serbia has implemented two action plans. This report evaluates the design of Serbia’s third action plan.

General overview of action plan

The openness of Serbia’s government has not changed considerably compared with that of the previous OGP cycles. Although the public administration continues to increase efforts toward opening data and digitalization, the problematic state of the rule of law and media freedom deterioration affect the environment for open government. Whereas two important laws were enacted to include better participatory mechanisms, in practice, citizens have little opportunity to scrutinize government performance in critical policy areas.

During the co-creation of the action plan, the quality of communication and government openness toward CSO proposals has increased. Serbia’s multi-stakeholder process is inclusive, with government and non-governmental actors having equal rights to propose commitments, set the agenda, and participate in decision-making.

Although the Working Group had conducted extensive consultations, some government bodies in charge of important policy areas, such as fiscal transparency, did not agree to take up commitments proposed by the civil society, limiting the overall ambition of the action plan. As a result, even those commitments on crucial topics, such as media ownership, focus on small technological improvements and are under-resourced for effective implementation. Some commitments were carried forward from previous action plans but were not clearly improved in a way to prevent previous challenges from recurring.

Table 2. Noteworthy commitments

Commitment description Moving forward Status at the end of implementation cycle.
Commitment 6: Amending Media Registration Bylaws

Increase transparency of public spending on media and ensure data quality and accuracy by amending the rules for registering in the Media Register and then improve the Register’s technical functionalities for better data display.

Public money flows in the media sector are difficult to trace, and the legal framework for those flows creates space for abuse. The commitment could help shed light on public funding of media organizations, but reforms are needed that directly enforce the accountability of these funds. Mechanisms foreseen in this commitment are a step in the right direction while a new law is being prepared. Future commitments could aim explicitly toward strengthening accountability mechanisms in the media. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.
Commitment 11: Improve Proactive Transparency

Publish information booklets with strict content and deadlines.

This commitment is the only potentially transformative commitment in this action plan. It would oblige all public authorities to publish and update an online “booklet,” disclosing information on income and expenditures, public procurement, and other highly relevant data in a standardized, consistent, and open format. This commitment is carried forward from the previous action plan and needs to be given priority during implementation. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.
Commitment 12: Amend Access to Information Law

Amend the law to ensure effective oversight of compliance and expand the circle of authorities subject to the law

Amendments would bring considerable improvements, including expanding the scope of bodies subject to the law, reducing the number of potential reasons for rejecting FoI request, and making it mandatory to obtain the opinion of information commissioner on draft laws. Civil society stresses that the final outcome will depend on content of the final draft law. Note: this will be assessed at the end of action plan cycle.

Recommendations

The IRM recommendations aim to inform the development of the next action plan and guide implementation of the current action plan.

Table 3. Five KEY IRM Recommendations

1 Ensure high-level political support to the national OGP process
2 Diversify lead implementing agencies and convince key bodies with veto power over important commitments to proactively participate in the deliberations of the Working Group
3 Increase the number of commitments primarily targeting public accountability, direct civic engagement, and citizen-relevant public services.
4 Improve design of commitments that only prescribe legislative changes but lack implementation aspects.
5 Stimulate reuse of open data.

 

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Filed under: IRM IRM Report

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